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Father of modern day ice climbing to visit


Media Release

Wednesday, 5th September, 2012

Father of modern day ice climbing to visit New Zealand

In late September 2012 legendary Canadian alpinist Barry Blanchard will deliver a series of lectures on his climbing career at the invitation of the New Zealand Alpine Club.

Blanchard grew up in poverty ‘hard against the railway tracks’ in Calgary, Alberta, the eldest of five ‘half-breed’ children.

“We called ourselves ‘chugs’,” Blanchard says. “That’s Canadian slang for half Indian, half white.”

As with many of his teenaged friends, Blanchard was looking towards a life of delinquency and crime before he began to fantasize about becoming a mountain climber.

“I now see the futureless-ness of my life then as liberating,” he says. “It meant no expectations. With it came the freedom to dream.”

His climbing career began on the limestone cliffs of the Canadian Rockies, but within a few years he was climbing in the French Alps and the granite walls of Yosemite National Park, California. In 1984 he took part in his first expedition to the Greater Ranges where he joined a young team to make the first ascent of the North Ridge of Rakaposhi, Pakistan. The team received accolades for the ascent, and Blanchard’s reputation as one of the best alpinists in the world was established.

Over the past 30 years he has continued to climb in the greatest mountain ranges of the world. In 1993 he attempted the treacherous Kukuczka/Piotrowski route on K2 (Pakistan) and 1994 the Kangshung Face of Everest, the most difficult route on the highest mountain in the world.

Known as the ‘father of modern day Canadian ice climbing,’ he is possibly best known for the extremely technical ice climbs he has done in his own back yard- the Canadian Rockies. These include the first ascent of the Emperor Face of Mt Robson, the highest mountain in North America, which took Blanchard and fellow alpinist Steve House four attempts to complete.

Blanchard is a fully qualified international mountain guide and lives in Canmore, Alberta. At 53 he has been married twice and has two young children from his second marriage. He says “the strongest bonds with other men were forged in the mountains in the late 1980s, the same time I was unravelling the bond I shared with my first wife.”

These days he is less likely to take extreme risks in the mountains saying “every time I face a decision about risk, I see my children’s faces.”

Blanchard will be speaking in Auckland (Sept 24), Wellington (Sept 25), Nelson (Sept 26), Christchurch (Sept 27), Dunedin (Sept 28) and Wanaka (Sept 29).

Tickets can be ordered online at: http//



The New Zealand Alpine Club (NZAC) was formed in 1891 and aims to promote and support climbing at all levels within New Zealand. It has over 3000 members and five full-time staff, based at its headquarters in Christchurch. The scope of its activities are broad, including publishing, the provision of 17 alpine huts and base lodges, instruction, advocacy, insurance and support for overseas climbing expeditions. In any given year, NZAC volunteers instruct over 100 novices in basic snowcraft and rock-climbing. Further to this, the NZAC organises professional instruction for a similar amount of participants in intermediate and advanced level alpine skills.

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  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland